Survey shows little improvement in religious freedom
Secretary of State John Kerry
May 20th, 2013
06:18 PM ET

Survey shows little improvement in religious freedom

By Paul Courson

There has been little improvement in religious freedom worldwide but some positive changes were seen in Turkey and Vietnam, according to an annual State Department survey of nearly 200 countries.

Secretary of State John Kerry, a former U.S. senator who helped push the law mandating the original report 15 years ago, helped announce the findings on Monday in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

"This report is a clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world. And when necessary, yes, it does directly call out some of our close friends, as well as some countries with whom we seek stronger ties."

Government repression in China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia has kept all three countries on a list the report calls "Countries of Particular Concern."

U.S. Ambassador-at-large Suzan Johnson Cook said positive developments were found in Turkey, where restrictions have been relaxed on religious clothing, and in Vietnam, where the government has begun allowing large religious gatherings of 100,000 people or more.

But a ranking Republican says Vietnam deserves a tougher assessment.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said "religious freedom remains under attack in Vietnam."

In a statement issued soon after the report, he said "the Communist government in Vietnam has denied its people the most basic freedoms."

Royce has introduced legislation calling on the State Department to restore a negative status for Vietnam by again listing it as a Country of Particular Concern.

In the report, China was cited for a "pervasive" government campaign against freedom of religion, involving detention, surveillance and other techniques of repression.

And the report said North Korea in 2012 "dealt harshly with all opponents," and discouraged organized religious activities.

Kerry said governments that are behind repression hurt their own stability and are a risk to other countries.

"Attacks on religious freedom," Kerry said, are "both a moral and a strategic national security concern for the United States."

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Filed under: China • Congress • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Saudi Arabia • Sec. State John Kerry
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. J. B.

    I'm more interested in freedom from religion here at home. Until we have a system of laws based on reality instead of an old book of fables and myths, our freedom is severely restricted.

    May 22, 2013 at 8:45 am | Reply
    • Solus5

      What laws based on the "fables and myths" would you do away with?
      Which of the 10 Commandments would do you see as harmful to society and what would you replace it with?
      I have to assume that by degrading the Bible you are one of those "enlightened" individuals that believe in the beginning there was nothing and then it exploded... yeap.. your religion takes more faith than mine...

      If you really want to read a book of myths and fables go read Darwin...

      May 22, 2013 at 10:10 am | Reply
      • Ganzai

        Most of the 10 commandments are crap and can be boiled down to three things. Coveting your neighbors goods and wife are thought crimes and are the worst part of the ten commandments. The stuff about not worshiping false idols and keeping holy the Sabbath have no place in American Law. I could continue but these points are made way better by George Carlin.

        May 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Amanda

      It's very interesting some of the "freedom FROM religion" posts here. It's basically condoning this communist behavior and wishing the US was not tolerant or free.

      July 31, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply
  2. steven

    religious freedom is a joke...they don't want freedom for religion around the world...they want to control the world...as it has been their goal since the first shaman poked a stick in a fire....

    May 22, 2013 at 7:07 am | Reply
  3. Mike

    Of course there's little improvement. The worst offenders go unchecked, ranting both for and against religion.

    May 22, 2013 at 4:03 am | Reply
  4. Ol' Yeller

    @Brutus Who,what,where, when do you see any mandate for atheism? It is the Christian religion which attempts to get special treatment (and have been successful time and again). Whenever there is a battle over prayer in school or a symbol in a courtyard, it is not someone facing east praying to Mecca or the Star of David in question, it is ALWAYS some Christians who are playing the victim because their particular beliefs aren't getting top billing. The argument is always that this is a country founded on Christian principals... well just because you have been bullies for centuries don't make it right. All catching up to you now....

    May 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Reply
    • Lindsey

      Ol Yeller is scared to discuss religion. I guess so he wants no religion at all! We are a nation with freedom OF religion and not a nation with freedom From religion! Freedom FROM religion is practiced in North Korea, the former Soviet Union, China and other such places where people are told to worship their governments.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  5. Sister Christian

    Who is Kerry going to appoint to combat the world wide persecution of Christians? Btw, giving money to countries that persecute Christians does NOT combat persecution of Christians, it encourages it!

    May 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • JCDavis

      We bombed Iraq and killed the secular leaders, and now Iraq has Sharia law. Half the Christians went into exile. We bombed Libya and killed the secular leaders, and now Libya has Sharia law too. In Syria, the Christians are taking the side of the Assad government while we are supporting Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists, and if they win, the Christians will have to flee that country as well. It seem s that we are doing everything we can to eliminate secular governments and make life tough for Christians.

      May 22, 2013 at 8:59 am | Reply
      • Lindsey

        Amen!!!

        October 12, 2014 at 11:17 pm |
  6. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Survey shows little improvement in religious freedom

    Do you Pray ?
    Do you own a Bible ?

    WHAT ???

    Please send this one over to the IRS for a seven year audit... ASAP !!!

    May 21, 2013 at 6:53 am | Reply
  7. USMC1371

    What happened to the seperation of church and state? The federal government should have nothing in any way shape or form to do with religion.

    May 21, 2013 at 3:04 am | Reply
    • Dan5404

      Kerry is promoting freedom, not espousing any religious sect or group. Democracy means freedom to choose...religion or no religion, one faith or another...one political group or another, etc. That is not interference in state and religion, it is the opposite. It is opposition to forceful means to deny the right to a choice. It's the same policy in the United States that evangelical Christians call an attack on religious freedom, because they insist that our country should be like them. That's exactly what many Muslims believe. Forcing any kind of religious beliefs on anyone is not true freedom.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:51 am | Reply
      • rp1588

        Kerry is just going through the motions. He has yet to speak out against those who kill so a nation's government can be dictated by foreigners. Instead, he works alongside the killers.

        May 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Lindsey Brutus

      The first amendment guarantees religious freedom in the USA. I does not mandate atheism! Atheism is not religious freedom and to impose it on anybody is a restriction on religious freedom.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Reply
      • Hammerdown

        ***
        I does not mandate atheism!

        What ?

        May 21, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Lindsey

      USMC- We do not separate religion and state! We just don't have a state religion! Our system of government is only suitable for a moral and religious people!

      October 12, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  8. helenecha

    The U.S. needs to make sure if the religious cultures are not hostile towards American freedom culture before calling on religious freedom around the world. Otherwise, all the efforts on religious freedom will make the U.S. receive more challenges than opportunities.

    May 21, 2013 at 12:05 am | Reply
  9. George Patton-2

    Just exactly who are we Americans to butt into the internal affairs of other countries on behalf of religion? This is their business, not ours! Another excuse for the right-wing thugs in Washington to go to war, I suppose!!! To them, war is big business and more money in their pockets!

    May 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • massoud

      The left wing fascists in DC like war just as much as the right wing thugs you speak about.

      May 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
      • Quigley

        Actually massoud, there is no such thing as a left-wing fascist. All the goons in Washington are right-wing, including that killer Obama!

        May 21, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • George Patton-2

      punnie Boy George, what is your problem? why do you have to always oppose wars by Americans? Just think, people have been fighting for God knows how long, even Gods fight demons too !!! So what is wrong killing some demons in Middle East? If we don't kill these bad guys who is going to kill them?

      May 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • Moderate87

      The goal is not to promote one religion over another, its just to ensure that the populace has the freedom to choose whether or which religion to practice. The objective is to combat oppression based on religion or lack thereof (religion).

      May 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Reply

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